Wethersfield Teen Named Spokesperson of The Year
WETHERSFIELD, Conn. The National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter named at its recent annual meeting Ciara Rivera the 2007 MS Ambassador of the Year. The award ceremony and annual meeting was held at the Hartford Marriott in Rocky Hill, Conn., on Sunday, March 2.
"Miss Rivera continues to move and inspire us," said Karen E. Butler, vice president of communications. "Although the effects of multiple sclerosis have forever changed her life even robbing her of mobility at times, Ciara continually steps up to help raise awareness. Although shy, Ciara never refuses an opportunity to share with others the effects of MS. She has proven to us you don’t have to shout to speak out."
A resident of Wethersfield, Conn., Rivera, 18, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was just 15 years old. Last March, while admitted to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC), Rivera, on a day pass, attended the 2007 MS Lobby MS Lobby Day at the State Capitol Building. She could not walk, had little use of her hands and could barely speak. She and her mother, Sandra Collazo, courageously spoke with legislators about the effects of MS on Rivera’s life. Rivera asked legislators to support a pilot program providing homecare assistance to people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64.
Although still in the hospital where doctors struggled to keep her symptoms under control, in an effort to raise awareness and promote the Connecticut Chapter’s 2007 benefit walk event, Rivera interviewed from her hospital room with Connecticut’s ABC affiliate WTNH News Channel 8. A couple weeks later, on another day pass and in a wheelchair, Rivera attended the annual walk event in West Hartford.
In July 2007 the Hartford Courant featured Rivera in a front page article highlighting pediatric MS and America’s youth. This story helped communities across the state understand the unpredictable effects of MS that MS affects youths and adults alike robbing them of mobility and forever changing lives. This year Rivera has volunteered to serve as the official spokesperson for the walk MS: Travelers Walk 2008. Her photograph is featured on brochures and posters, localizing the fight and publicizing the 2008 walk event. Rivera will also be featured in television and radio public service ads to air on WTNH News Channel 8 and 96.5 TIC-FM in April.
"Although I’m sometimes nervous about sharing my story with so many, I will continue to do what I can to move us closer to a cure." said Rivera, who after months in a wheelchair is now ambulatory. "I plan to work even harder this year to raise awareness. Hopefully I will be able to move others to action to advocate educate donate and volunteer on behalf of those of us living with multiple sclerosis."
There are more than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Rivera, diagnosed with MS. Multiple sclerosis is a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown, and, as a result, there currently is no cure. Funds raised through chapter events, such as the MS Walk, ensure the continuation of scientific research to find a cure and provide for vital programs and services offered by the chapter to Connecticut residents diagnosed with MS.
For more information on multiple sclerosis, the chapter, its efforts to end the devastating effects of the disease and the many ways to help, please go to www.ctfightsMS.org.
CUTLINE 0376: Eighteen-year-old Ciara Rivera speaks to a group of more than 220 guests attending the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter 2007 Awards Ceremony & Annual Meeting held at the Hartford Marriott in Rocky Hill, Conn., on Sunday, March 2. Rivera shared with those attending her efforts to help raise awareness and at the conclusion asked, "What will you do?"
CUTLINE 0382: Wethersfield, Conn., resident Ciara Rivera, 18, accepts the 2007 MS Ambassador of the Year award for her extraordinary efforts to help raise awareness and promote the Connecticut Chapter’s annual walk event. Pictured from left to right: National MS Society President & CEO Joyce Nelson, who gave the keynote address; Connecticut Chapter President & CPO Lisa Gerrol; award recipient Ciara Rivera; and Mike Stacy, awards ceremony master of ceremonies, member of the chapter board of trustees and WRCH Lite 100.5 FM personality.